You think you're covered, but check out these melanoma facts.
Sure, you've heard about melanoma and you have a basic idea of what it is - skin cancer. But there are a variety of untold truths and myths about melanoma. Many women think that if you slather on sunscreen before heading outside that they're covered, but unfortunately, that isn't necessarily the truth. It is important to know the ins and outs of this disease so you can find ways to prevent melanoma as well as understand the symptoms to possibly catch an early onset of it.
Melanoma is one of the most common cancers in young adults. Young adults often think they're immune to disease or illness, but actually, they can be at high risk. Experts attribute the increased risk to the use of tanning beds, citing melanoma as the most common cancer for people 25 to 29.
You can get it even if you have dark skin. We tend to think that fair-skinned people are the ones who get melanoma, but it can happen to anyone. Melanoma is rare in people with dark skin tones, but when it does happen, it is most commonly found on lighter areas like the palms or soles of the feet. Regardless of skin color, the sun's rays can damage your skin and sunscreen is an important protector. A recent study also showed that using sunscreen on a daily basis can decrease the signs of premature aging and dark spots, so it's worth daily application.
It may not come from an existing mole. You can have dozens of moles on your body and never get melanoma, or you could have one "bad mole" that becomes skin cancer. The important thing is to keep an eye on the moles you know you have and look for new ones. Look for changes in color, size, shape, or hair pattern. Paying close attention to this can help with early detection.
It may not come from a mole at all. Melanoma can look like a small bruise that doesn't heal and can appear under a toe nail or finger nail, too. It is important to visit the dermatologist with no finger nail or toe paint so he or she can see your full body. Pay attention to anything that seems off and see a doctor if you're even the slightest bit concerned.
It's not all from sun exposure. Look in the hidden places that don't get sun exposure, too. Check in between your toes, on your butt, underarms and thighs. Use a mirror to check spots that are hard to see. See a dermatologist regularly so that if you miss something, your doctor can see it before it gets worse.
It's popular in older adults, too. Baby Boomers soaked up plenty of sun, usually without enough sunscreen, and sometimes with a layer of baby oil. Skin cancers aren't forgiving of your past mistakes. If you know you got too much dangerous sun in your younger years, share that information with your doctor and make sure you pay close attention to your skin now.
It's the deadliest form. Surprising, right? Other types of skin cancers are more common, but they have higher survival rates. The American Academy of Dermatology reports that one American dies from melanoma every hour.
It's very treatable if you catch it early. According to the AAD, the five year survival rate of people whose disease is detected before stage III is 98%. Reports indicate, however, that we may be seeing higher numbers of diagnosed individuals because doctors can now recognize stage 0 melanoma, where visible changes to the skin may be cancer that has not yet developed.
Staying out of the sun doesn't mean you won't get it. Having a family history of melanoma can make you more prone to the disease than the rest of the population. Having a first degree relative, like a parent or sibling, with melanoma may increase your risk by 10 to 15%, studies show. So dig into your family history, if you can, and share that information with your doctor.